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Project Self-Sufficiency kicks off holiday toy drive to benefit Sussex and Warren County children

The annual Season of Hope Toy Drive was launched by Project Self-Sufficiency and a consortium of businesses, schools, and social service agencies on Friday.

The massive undertaking aims to provide gift cards and new, unwrapped toys to parents and caregivers of more than 2,500 children and teens in the New Jersey counties of Sussex and Northern Warren. The toy drive is a joint effort which is driven and coordinated by Project Self-Sufficiency, along with its community partners, to benefit local families in need.

Donations are needed immediately and can be made in-person at the Newton agency. Additional toy drop off sites throughout the area will be added shortly.  Monetary donations are also accepted online.

The annual Season of Hope Toy Drive has served thousands of children and teens in northwestern New Jersey for many years. The initiative solicits donations from individuals, businesses, civic organizations, schools, youth groups, athletic teams and other groups throughout November and early December.

“We are searching for individuals, businesses, and organizations to coordinate drives for gift cards and toys on behalf of the low-income families in our area,” noted Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency.  “The Season of Hope Toy Drive directly benefits Sussex and Northern Warren County families in need.  The items collected here stay right here.  It truly is a way for neighbors to help each other during a time which can be stressful for many families.”

“Project Self-Sufficiency’s Season of Hope celebration is an annual opportunity to bring joy and show kindness to children, organized in a way that respects the dignity and agency of their parents,” said New Jersey Department of Children & Families Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer. “Each year, Project Self-Sufficiency puts out the call, and their community responds in kind, making the season just a little more hopeful for families in need in Sussex and Warren Counties.  On behalf of the Department, thank you to the leadership and staff at Project Self-Sufficiency for all they do to bring hope and light to the families they serve, all year long.”

“Project Self-Sufficiency’s Season of Hope Toy Drive provides a unique opportunity for families who struggle with holiday expenses to have a joyful and merry Christmas,” said Senator Doug Steinhardt.  “The Season of Hope Toy Drive is a great way to give back to the community to help more kids, and their families, have a memorable holiday.  I am extremely thankful for the hard work they are doing to spread cheer and goodwill this upcoming holiday season for the families of Warren County.”

Ron Tappan, Sussex County Administrator, notes that “Sussex County is a better place because of Project Self-Sufficiency.”

“I am very excited and honored to be a part of this event. I know there are a lot of families that struggle, and this time of the year can be extremely difficult,” remarked Newton Mayor Michelle Teets.  “I always believed it was better to give than to receive, and this is one of the best opportunities to give.”

Area elementary schools, middle schools and high schools have been invited to participate in a competitive “Stuff the Stocking” campaign.  Toys are picked up and counted in early December; 44 schools participated in 2022 and organizers hope to surpass that number this year. “I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the Season of Hope Campaign,” remarked Denise Current, owner of Stocker Bus Company which supplies buses and drivers free of charge to pick up toys at every school in December.  “It fulfills the hopes and dreams of many children and families during the holiday season.”

“The Sussex County Superintendents’ Roundtable Association is proud to support the Season of Hope Toy Drive again this year,” commented Dr. Joseph Piccirillo, Newton School District Superintendent and President of the Sussex County Superintendents’ Roundtable Association. “As superintendents, we interact with countless families each day and we know firsthand how many are struggling to make ends meet. We are grateful for the work that Project Self-Sufficiency does in our schools throughout the year and particularly thankful for the joy the Season of Hope Toy Drive brings our less fortunate families this time of year.”

“The Season of Hope Toy Shop relies on the contributions of countless individuals, businesses, and organizations every year,” explains Berry-Toon.  “We are particularly grateful to Sussex County Community College for providing off-site parking for staff, patrons, and volunteers, and for inviting their culinary arts students to bake thousands of cookies for distribution to the patrons of the toy shop.”

In addition to the hundreds of volunteers who sort toys and assist patrons, the Season of Hope Toy Shop benefits from the talents of numerous musicians who donate their time each year; music for the kick-off press conference was provided by a capella group Harmony in Motion.  Individuals and ensembles perform holiday tunes in multiple locations on the Project Self-Sufficiency campus throughout the duration of the two-day toy shop in December.

“Selective is proud to support the Season of Hope Toy Drive once again and help make the holidays special for local families,” said Katelyn Leondi, Director, Public Relations, Selective. “In addition to toy donations and employees’ volunteerism at the Toy Shop, Selective will contribute approximately 40 bikes for kids of all ages assembled by employees at our annual Build-a-Bike event for Project Self-Sufficiency.”

“We welcome the assistance of hundreds of volunteers, law enforcement personnel, and musicians as we help thousands of parents select toys for their children,” explains Project Self-Sufficiency Executive Director Deborah Berry-Toon. “Given the volume of children we will be serving, we are hoping that donations of funds, gift cards, and toys can be received by early December.”

Project Self-Sufficiency Leadership Council member Tim Parker donned a Santa suit and was accompanied by his wife, Project Self-Sufficiency Board member and retired jurist Lorraine Parker, at the kickoff event. “The compassion demonstrated by this community is overwhelming and we are looking forward to bringing these toys to local children in December.”

Donated items can be dropped off at Project Self-Sufficiency, 127 Mill Street in Newton, Monday – Thursday, from 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

For information about the Season of Hope Holiday Toy Drive, call Project Self-Sufficiency at 973-940-3500 or visit

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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